Samara Tilkens Postuma is raising five kids from infant to teen in the St. Michael area with her husband, Jeff. When not found driving kids to and from activities, helping with homework or at the park or pool, you can find her sharing her life online where she does some freelance writing and social media work and also writes at her own blog, www.simplicityinthesuburbs.com.

Think Outside of the Box this Christmas

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society, Education and literacy Updated: November 27, 2014 - 10:19 PM

It's easy to get wrapped up in the latest craze of the hottest toys out there but I prefer the gifts that last all year long.

Here's a few out of the box Christmas present ideas around town:

Minnesota Zoo

Purchase a full year of fun and adventure for family, friends, or employees with a Minnesota Zoo membership. Starting Black Friday (11/28) thru Cyber Monday (12/1), Holiday Gift Household Plus Memberships ($155.00) can be purchased for the price of a Holiday Gift Household Membership ($130.00). Memberships are good for free admission and parking all year long, special members only events, discounts at over 100 zoos nationwide and a $2 discount at the Imax. The Household Plus Membership includes one free guest each visit. This is perfect for families with kids of all ages.

The Minnesota Zoo will also be honoring troops this Holiday season. Military personnel (active, retired, and civilian*) will receive free admission, free parking and half price admission for family members through January 4, 2015. Discount offers also at our food courts and gift stores available. 

Science Museum of Minnesota

Memberships start at just $99 for a family and include a free Imax each visit. This is perfect for that family with elementary aged kids.

Children's Theatre Company

Right now, Children's Theatre Company has a deal where for $100 you get a voucher good for 4 tickets to the show of your choice. {Show options include: Snow Flake, Huck Finn, Peter Pan the Musical or The Biggest Little House in the Forest} All four passes must be redeemed for the same show, date and time. No limit on vouchers! This is a great gift for a family with preschool age and above kids.

Minnesota Children's Museum

Basic memberships start at just $99, with the deluxe priced at $129 and that includes a free guest each visit and free admission to the Children's Museum in Rochester too. I've heard that you can get $15 off ALL memberships on Black Friday but you can use my discount code: 141019053 for $15 off a Deluxe Membership through 12/31/14. This is perfect for a family with toddlers to early elementary.

Know of any other great experience gifts and deals around town? Share in the comments! 

Heading Over the River & Through the Woods this Thanksgiving? Here's some Road Trip Tips

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society, Education and literacy Updated: November 25, 2014 - 7:39 AM
They call this week the biggest travel week and many families are gearing up for flights here and there and a drive over that way. Here's a list of some road tripping travel tips-
 
1. Screw the schedule. I am the worst when it comes to schedules. Part of that is necessity {hello, we have five kids} and part of that is my free spirit. I am all about having a loose schedule that is more of a daily routine than anything else. If you don't live and die by a schedule for your kid, I really think travel is a lot easier. The way we framed schedules for our babes was always around US, the adults. We followed routines and tried to keep bedtime scheduled as much as we could but aside from that there was no set timing for meals and naps, it was how it fit in the day that day. Maybe lunch is typically around 11, or maybe if we're running errands we don't eat until 12. My goal for my kids is that they are flexible and adaptable kids, not kids who are thrown off by a missed nap or a later lunch than normal. I understand that this doesn't work for everyone, but it worked for us and really is probably the biggest reason travel works so well for us.
 
2. Do it early, do it often and your kids will adapt to car rides or flights and sleeping in pack and plays and such.

3. Let it go. We all want our kids to eat healthy snacks but I admit when we travel that's one of the first things to go. Special treats and snacks are a welcome assistant. Buy things you maybe wouldn't normally buy and let the food rules go out the window just a stitch.

4. Same goes with screen time. We have pretty strict limits when we are at home on screen time. But when we are on a road trip, all bets are off and unless there is a behavior reason {i.e. we took it away} we let them play games, watch shows and listen to music. I promise it's not going to have lasting long term effects because you let your child binge watch Dora the Explorer for a long car ride.

5. Keep baby entertained by packing a few essentials. Lacers, an old wallet filled with random cards and things you couldn't care less about, a toy cell phone or better yet, a cell real phone that's no longer used.

6. Organize, organize, organize. Plan ahead, know where you have what you need and stay organized. Are the snacks accessible? If someone spills or gets sticky do you have wet wipes? Did everyone go to the bathroom before getting in the car and at each stop? These are the key to staying calm when traveling. Anticipate boredom, bring coloring books and crayons, have your kids pick out a new reading book at the store or library. Think of  that thing that your kid would be thrilled to get to play with or see several hours into the trip and SAVE it for that desperate moment. Keep a few surprises up your sleeves. Involve them in the packing {note, I said involve, do not under any circumstances let them pack!}

7. Be Positive. The more negative and stressed YOU are about the trip and the travel, the more your kids are going to make you crazy. I promise. Assume your kids are going to make a mess in the back and that even though you give them a trash they will still throw their GoGoSqueez wrapper on the floor. Make it an adventure, make it fun. Stop and look around at rest stops and buy that special treat you would usually say no to. Don't be afraid, create fun new memories and establish what your "normal" travel expectations would look like. Most of all, enjoy. It's work but it's fun.

What works for you and your family when taking a road trip?

{This is an adaptation of a post that originally appeared on Simplicity In The Suburbs.}

Kicking Off the Christmas Season

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society Updated: November 19, 2014 - 10:00 PM
 

I know, I know. It's Thanksgiving next week and we're already jumping ahead to Christmas and I'm usually a by the book follower of waiting until Thanksgiving to get a jump on the season but this year, we're feeling it a little bit earlier.

It might be because of the early snow and cold {why do we live here again?} or it might be because my 5 year old and I saw Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas last weekend but whatever it is, I'm feeling it.

When do you start your Christmas decorating and celebrating? Do you wait for Thanksgiving? have certain traditions that don't wait?

There's a few things kicking off this weekend to take advantage of if you, too, are feeling the Christmas spirit already.

Macy's Santaland at the downtown Macy's opens Saturday and runs through Christmas Eve. Though the display doesn't change anymore, it's a fun Christmas tradition to walk through "A Day in the Life of an Elf". It's totally free but you can purchase snacks, photos with Santa and more in the gift shop.

Santa and Albert the Elf will be performing at the Bachman's Lyndale Avenue store weekends throughout the rest of November and December. Performances will take place at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Santa will arrive at Bachman's this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. for a Holiday kickoff full of treats, shopping and even some crafts. This event and the weekend performances are all free.

What do you do to kickoff the Christmas season?

School Photos- Yay or Nay?

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society, Education and literacy Updated: November 12, 2014 - 12:45 PM

So I'll be honest, the reason I'm even thinking about this is because one of our kids school photos is awful. Like AWFUL. Like I opened the envelope and half expected there to be a note that said "GOTCHA!" because they are awful. 

Her head is off center, her hair, good heavens her hair, is a mess, did she or someone else attempt a pony tail? Her smile is awkwardly half hearted. 

This is no Lifetouch school photo, this is a private school photographer who got it all wrong.

My husband, ever the practical one, naturally suggested retakes. Not just for this child but another one of our kids whose photo wasn't awful but also wasn't good. Retakes doesn't sound remotely appealing to me for two reasons: 1. If they couldn't keep her looking good and together when it was a school wide picture day why would they be able to do it on a random retake day. 2. I don't want to wait another 4-6 weeks for the package. Grandparents are asking for photos you know, it's nearly Thanksgiving.

With four school agers we spend over $100 on school picture packages each fall and we buy pretty much the basics. An 8X10 for our wall, 5X7's for grandparents and a handful of wallets is all we need. Yet we spend over $100. 

The past couple years I've started to wonder, are we out of touch? Is it crazy we still do this? I even try to have our youngests photos done with the same color background and the same vertical pose so that her photo can match on the all.

Do you still get school photos or do you just do your own? If you've had a bad photo have you done retakes with success or do you just call it a good story/memory maker and call it a day?

{PS NO awful school photo pictured here because I care about the future google searches my little ones may do.}

An Easy Service Project this Month {Evie Bags}

Posted by: Samara Postuma under Society, Education and literacy, Politics Updated: November 6, 2014 - 1:22 PM

This post originally appeared on my site, Simplicity In The Suburbs but I thought it worthwhile to share here too.

I saw him from across the street and I knew. I knew my little girl, with her bleeding heart for others, would stop and want to help him. Wind blowing, the crisp air biting our cheeks, we rushed across the street, me carrying Miss F, our friends just ahead of us and Miss E starts reading, "Home lllllesss...."

"and hunnnnn gry. Mom, he is homeless and hungry. We need to help him." She stopped right smack on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Delaware in downtown Chicago. Her feet are glued to the ground, she will not budge until we do something, anything to help this man who's sitting on the sidewalk, blankets and trash all around him.

I dig my hand in my coat pocket and grab a handful of change and hand it to her and she bends down, sticks it in the mans plastic cup and while dozens of people are walking every which direction around us, she makes eye contact with him as he says, "Thank you."

She tells him you're welcome and we are on our way and I am ever aware that she is on the lookout for more souls she can help. She looks back at him as we turn the corner and says, "I'm so sad he is homeless."

Hours later we are en route home, a seven hour drive ahead of us, I tell her I am proud that she stopped and helped that man.

"Oh mom, it's what I do," she says. "I help people." And she grins a solid grin that she does so well and says, "Don't forget we need to make some bags for people."

Yes, yes. I say and nod.

***

With the Holiday season approaching the requests of your time, money, resources are plenty. I am not under any illusion of otherwise. But this year we've decided that Miss E, our almost 6 year old, is on to something.

Her heart, you guys. Her heart for others, for homeless, for hungry, for those out in the cold. She doesn't understand why it is that some people have homes and others don't. She doesn't understand why some people are so hungry and all she wants to do is make it better.

So this month, we'll be packing up bags. As many as we can pack and we'll be handing them out all month {hopefully winter} long.

Will you join us? Will you help Evie and her plight to help others? Let's start with 100. We can do that, right? 100 bags for others. In less than 24 hours we've surely surpassed 100, we've updated the goal to 500! FIVE HUNDRED bags to help others! Help us!?

Here's how you can help support Evie's bags-

1. Make your own bags and hand them out to those who need them. This doesn't have to be just a Minnesota thing because there are homeless and hungry people everywhere. Now if you live far, far out in the suburbs, the idea of finding people to give these bags to might seem challenging. Call your local food shelf or drive in to your local big city.

2. As you put together the bags, keep it simple. A former homeless man I know said to avoid personal care items but include things like a snack and water and gloves. The Dollar Tree often has things like hand warmers that would be a great addition. I'm guessing we all have extra Halloween candy laying around that would be a good addition.

3. Include a personal note {no last names}. Evie's note of choice:

4. Pass those bags out. Wherever and whenever you can. You can pass along those bags to us and we'll pass them along OR you can tally the amount you make to give out and let us know so we can include them in our count and if all this is too much for you and you would rather donate to Evie's bags, shoot me an email at samarapostuma at gmail dot com and we will work something out.

5. Share this post. Invite your friends, coworkers, neighbors to take part to create some bags together.

Bonus: Will you take photos? Photos of your bags? Photos as you hand them out? And send them to me? I would love to do a compilation.

***

The thing that strikes me the most when it comes to Evie and the way she wants to help is the way that she truly sees people. She is unafraid, she is not awkwardly looking away as some of us adults do, she is not uncomfortable. Her act of helping those who need help is her way of saying, "I see you and you are loved and may this little bit I have to offer, help you."

So will you see those who need help this season, will you remind them that they are loved and will you offer whatever little bit you have to offer to help? If my little Evie can do it, I think we all can.

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